Courage in Corruption (continued)

As news from the curia continues to scourge us with its scandal and scathe we are all undoubtedly tired. The rabbit hole sucks as it deflates. It is filled with muck and sludge, and its thickness sticks. Unable to completely compartmentalize, I can feel its heaviness everywhere. Without the emergence of true leadership, a sense of confusion and isolation is perhaps its most burdensome load.

We are being bombarded by news that potentially (probably) implicates Pope Francis to knowingly covering up for sexual predators! The narcissism among the hierarchy is so blind to interior insight that even with so much mounting evidence of personal implication they still seem completely incapable of apologizing on behalf of themselves! We continue to realize that in an effort to sustain a culture of abuse, they groomed us all! Just when we think we might be able to allow the shock to dissipate towards light, its pull towards darkness feels stronger.

As inconceivable and overwhelming as so many of the details appear to be, I do not ever want to give evil too much credit or very much space in my mind. I do not want to allow its darkness to dim God’s effort to put light in my life. The more unremarkable we allow evil to be, the less power it’s orchestrator possesses. It is remarkable only in its power to destroy that which is not focused on God’s goodness. Even in using its most clever devices evil cannot destroy what is truly good. What’s more, is that in its attempts to devour and demolish, the vileness so often reveals what is most precious and in need of protection. Why abuse children if not for the power their purity possesses? Why use sex to attack and abuse if not for its true sacredness and orientation towards life? Why have women been so excluded from the decision-making body of the Church if not for their capacity to create true change? What reason is there for McCarrick to sacrilege the Eucharist (as the nuncios letter claims linked here) if it is only a piece of bread?

We are witnessing, for the first time in ages, an internal implosion of the Church hierarchy. In the pursuit of power, prestige, and position these men have sought themselves while backstabbing others, and its all being consumed by its own cannibalism.

Even if we tend towards cynicism, even if history shows that the church has always been riddled in it, the confirmation of these types and levels of corruption in this particular time in history, at this particular time of our lives, in these types of ways, is incomprehensible. We can so easily be swept up and away by the outrage into a directionless frenzy of catharsis and chaos. The creativity that the laity and faithful priests so desperately need is so easily squandered by sheer exhaustion. We have jobs to do and babies to raise! Who in their right mind has time for this junk?! What reasons do we have to stay at all? I doubt much else satisfies evil than the kill of good simply by making it tired enough to feel so lonely that it gives up and walks away.

We must utilize our racing thoughts and emotions to embrace the freedom of a life chasing Jesus in new and radical ways. Catharsis without change is outrage wasted.

Though implosions have happened before, and may even happen again, we cannot reduce the magnanimity of God’s message to each and every one of us. In our own way, and for unique reasons, WE WERE EACH MADE FOR THIS VERY MOMENT.

So how do we capitalize on what currently feels so crazy?

To me there are non negotiable points that I think we have an opportunity to actualize as a lay movement if we properly leverage ourselves and engage with the gifts that we have been given. First: WE NEED AN OUTSIDE INVESIGATION OF THE WHOLE CHURCH. State by state is great, but this goes all the way up and all the way around the world. Second, not only do we need to purge out the bad people and practices, but we need to bring them to justice. Defunding them, and defrocking them is the only way to begin to defend the ones they have hurt and will hurt if we do anything different.

I think the first step in getting there is to lay ourselves down in prayer like we never have before. Part of me hesitates to even suggest this as our first line of strategy because how often does it feel like the phrase “thoughts and prayers!” is used as a way of buying time, and excusing slowness and inaction? I think too, much of our earnest has been so manipulated by our leaders that now, more than ever, we want to do more, when maybe, God is asking us all first to be more. We must remember that when we give ourselves over to God in the type of prayer when we completely and totally lay all of our fears and most absurd and radical questions that He does not disappoint. He seeks to accompany our loneliness with an energy and focus that can only be described as heaven-sent. Prayer is what activates the life in all of us. So let us go to Him in haste with the big questions and let us expect Him to give answers. How do I raise my kids in this mess?! Who am I to trust? When will this all be figured out? And while we may not get answers for what to do next week, we can have confidence that he is inspiring us with what to do today.

Nor can we underestimate the power of community to transform catharsis into change. We must discern our individual conscience with those that are like-minded, but diverse in talent.  Maybe its organizing a town hall in your own parish, writing a letter to or requesting a meeting with the bishop. A new financial plan that withholds open-ended donations, or a new fervor to pray with our own families. Exchange ideas, report what works, respect differences among plans, understanding that God really asked each of us to be exactly who we are. In the words of one of my favorite fellow small Italian women, If we are who we are meant to be, we will set the world ablaze -St Catherine of Sienna. (and maybe we let the Vatican and its bank burn too 😉 )

Pray with urgency. Prepare to be pruned. Work together with focus.  Discover concrete ways to reform ourselves, our communities, our local parish, our dioceses, and ultiamtely the whole Church. In it all, we must be patient with our own psychological make up. This is a traumatic event in our faith lives, and the way each of us is designed to process that will look very different. This is hard, this hurts, but we rest assured that God is the one in charge, and our love for Him cannot be unrequited.

Courage in Corruption

I was about 8 years old when I first heard the whispered rumors slithering about, the full sound of their strike and strangle muted to a silence. “But he’s such a funny priest!” I protested. “Trust the Church,” my mom would repeat again and again. “He is leaving for a reason.”

That priest left my home parish as the trail of his scandal grew cold. The leadership of my current Bishop of Pittsburgh and the presiding Cardinal of the Arch Diocese of Washington D.C helped in moving him away only to have his destruction continued elsewhere.

The real life nightmare is detailed in the recent Pennsylvania grand jury document. It took three decades since I first heard of that priests dismissal to learn the whole truth. The reason for his relocation is that he was running a ring of child pornography and rape in the same sacristy where I warmed up for church choir. He continued for years to groom victims, wreak havoc, and wreck lives. He did it all while wearing a smile and telling a joke. My mother’s hopeful trust in the prudence and resolute action of Church leaders of whom she, and so many, still so desperately want to see as good, in the Church to which she gave her life, in the Church in which she raised her children, was trampled and tossed out.

The details of this abuse are no longer remarkable in their occurrence. They are another torrid tale of too many to count, proving to me once and for all that my hope of isolated incidents is as naive as it is dangerous. How could evil and destruction exist within the same institution that helped me foster my faith, find my vocation, shape who I am, what I believe, and why I believe it? But yet, throughout my 32 years, the steady stream of Church scandal persists. Decades upon decades of the same old story of abuse and cover up, deceit and deception, money that should have fed the poor being wasted on the settlements of sexual impropriety, criminal intent. Incident upon incident managed by the very same people who are currently in power, with no way of getting them out unless they resign. IT IS TIME FOR THEM TO RESIGN. 

I love my Church. I trust the core tenants of my faith, and I will cherish them always. I do not, however, trust the current hierarchy nor its systems because their behaviors and beliefs have shown themselves as inherently heretic, and criminal in creed. Corrupt cardinal, it seems, is not a rarity, but merely a term of redundancy. If we have any hope for the future of our children’s faith we must face this corruption head on and with the full force of an armory of courage, and an arsenal of prayerful peace.

As awful as this all is and is going to continue to be, I do at my core see this as an opportunity.  We need a renewal. We need resignations. We need reorganization. And the only way any of those things are going to happen is if we, as the laity of the Church work from the ground up. We must work with our faithful priests (of which there are many!!) It is certainly easy to get wrapped up in the muck, to get stuck in the sensationalism, overwhelmed physically, mentally, and spiritually by the magnitude of calamity because the higher we go the worse it seems. So this, fellow lay Catholics, is our chance to take back the Church from those who are trying to steal it and destroy it. I don’t want my kids to have a remnant. I want them to experience Catholicism in its fullness. And I want them to know that I am willing to fight for that.

To me, what is the most central to this crisis is the topic of Celibacy. When is the last time you heard a priest speak about his celibacy? Most likely, it wasn’t that recently. 

The concept of lay obedience is based on an exchange of goods. Priestly Celibacy is given to the laity in exchange for our obedience. Our obedience is of great value! If leadership is to be worthy of our obedience, they ought to be doing something difficult and they ought to be doing that difficult thing well! And they ought to be able to talk about it.

Celibacy is not meant to stifle sexuality, but to activate a burning desire for eternity! It is meant to fuel the mission of each priest in the same way that sexual desire fuels a marriage! Sexual desire in its fulfillment of gratification and in the fulfillment of its sacrifice are meant to bear a similar fruit: unity, and passionate pursuance: A husband towards his wife, a priest towards his Church.

Alas, long ago, the church leaders, as well as the laity, lost a lot of the richness of the understanding of human sexuality. Our sexuality is not stagnant, and it cannot be stuffed down. It is the exception rather than the rule that a priest will address celibacy as something that is active. It needs to be communicated and discussed openly. 

Until our Church fathers demonstrate an understanding of what active celibacy is, they are undeserving of our obedience. We have a responsibility to remind them of that, and to redesign our current leadership according to this fundamental exchange. 

We have a homosexuality problem. We have pornography problem. We have a mismanagement problem. We have narcissism problem. We have a lust for money problem. We have a lack of women in roles of leadership problem. Many of these things are very well discussed in depth on Catholicpsych.com and I strongly encourage reading through his site.

It is time for a hierarchical overhaul. Time is Up. Eternity is waiting. Lets get to it.

I hope this tiny corner of the internet can be a place to share ideas and discuss hard things with charity. Please join me.